Funding for patent and design protection

Securing effective intellectual property protection requires an investment of funds. Fortunately, government grants, such as small business grants and export market development grants (EMDGs), R&D tax incentives, venture capitalists and crowdsourcing are there to assist with this investment and with related activities.

Government programs

The Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme – Accelerating Commercialisation provides grants of up to $1 million that can be put towards “IP protection expenditure – reasonable costs that protect IP … These costs can include fees to a patent office for the cost of filing a patent application, patent search and examination fees, freedom to operate review costs, and annual patent maintenance fees”. The programme is highly competitive and preference is given to projects that service:

  1. Advanced Manufacturing;
  2. Food and Agribusiness;
  3. Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals;
  4. Mining Equipment, Technology and Services;
  5. Oil, Gas and Energy Resources; or
  6. Enabling Technologies and Services.

Export market development grants (EMDG) – The EMDG scheme is an Australian Government scheme to support Australian exporters by reimbursing export-related costs incurred in the previous financial year. The scheme provides a cash rebate of up to $150,000 per year to eligible applicants. Each applicant can submit eight applications for expenses incurred in the previous financial year. In the first application, applicants have the opportunity to include expenses from the previous two financial years. International patents and trade marks are included on the eligible expense list, with the opportunity to claim up to $50,000 in patents per application. By accessing EMDG, you have the potential to recoup up to $200,000 in patent attorney charges. We recommend you use a qualified consultant to assist with your claim preparation – a list of qualified consultants can be found here.

R&D tax incentives – “The R&D Tax Incentive is a targeted, generous and easy to access entitlement program that helps businesses offset some of the costs of doing R&D” – AusIndustry R&D Tax Incentive. At the time of writing, the program provides tax offsets up to the equivalent of 150% and that amount was to be slightly reduced on 1 July 2014.

Export Finance Australia (formerly the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation) Export Finance Australia is the Australian Government’s export credit agency. Export Finance Australia assists Australian businesses to take advantage of commercial export and overseas investment opportunities. Export Finance Australia also supports buyers of Australian goods and services in emerging markets and subcontractors to Australian exporters.

Government grants generally – The Australian Federal, State and Territory Governments provide a wide range of financial assistance programs. The Australian Government’s grants and assistance finder is a free online resource to help businesses find appropriate funding programs. The Victorian Government also lists many available grants, vouchers and assistance programs online. AusIndustry’s small business support line is another source of information, and various “grant consultants” work on a fee-for-service basis to assist businesses to identify and obtain the appropriate government grants.

Venture capital and crowdsourcing

Venture capital involves a partner (the venture capitalist) making a high risk/high return investment in a new venture such as a new business, product or brand. AusIndustry provides a list of venture capitalists and other useful information here. The Melbourne Angels is a group of angel investors that actively invests in innovative start ups.

Crowdsourcing, or more specifically crowdfunding, is another useful approach. “Crowdfunding is the process of funding your projects by a multitude of people contributing a small amount in order to attain a certain monetary goal” – Wikipedia (because we couldn’t put it any better ourselves). Typically this involves reaching out via the Internet. CrowdCube, Seedrs and Kickstarter are popular crowdsourcing sites.

The word of warning below is especially relevant to crowdsourcing: If patent or design protection is of interest, don’t post your invention and/or product on a crowdsourcing site until initial application(s) for protection are in place!

A word of warning

Generally speaking, to obtain valid patent and/or design protection, the invention and/or product should be kept secret until initial application(s) for protection are filed. It is not as important, but still wise, to keep new trade marks secret until an initial application for protection is in place. So, when seeking out funding before filing any initial application(s) for protection, it is important that any discussions regarding the invention, product and/or trade mark are clearly confidential. Ideally the confidentiality should be documented, e.g. in a non-disclosure agreement.

Australia, the US and Canada have 12 month grace periods that may allow you to pursue patent protection for an invention that is no longer secret.

About us and this webpage

We are expert patent attorneys. We are not experts in securing funding. This page is the result of our own online research and feedback from our clients, and is here as a service to our clients and potential clients. It may not be accurate. Please look to the linked government resources before making business decisions.

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If you have any comments or suggestions on this page, we’d love to hear them. Please contact us.

Further reading